Baltimore interim police commissioner Gary Tuggle withdraws from consideration for permanent job

Baltimore’s interim police commissioner — the third person to hold the top post this year — said Tuesday that he has withdrawn from consideration for the permanent job.

Gary Tuggle, a former Drug Enforcement Administration veteran who joined the police department earlier this year, said he decided he couldn’t make the necessary commitment.

“The problems are a heavy lift, but they’re not insurmountable,” Tuggle said outside the U.S. District Courthouse, where his decision was revealed during a hearing on the police department’s consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice.

“I’m confident it can be fixed, without a doubt, but it's going to take an extended commitment — I’m going to say five to seven years — based on everything that needs to be done, including re-establishing the public's trust in the department. And I just don’t have that five to seven years to give,” he said.

City Solicitor Andre Davis told U.S. District Judge James K. Bredar that the city remains on track to name a new police commissioner by the end of the month.

The selection process has been kept under wraps so far. Davis said more than 50 applications have been received, and a panel of three law enforcement experts from around the country is helping in the search.

When asked by reporters Tuesday for more details, Davis would only say “more shall be revealed” later.

Very little is known publicly about who is in the running for the top job, with City Hall insiders and outside policing experts alike saying in recent days that they had not heard names of any candidates. City officials have said they won’t name the applicants, citing confidentiality agreements with them.

Tuggle said he had not been interviewed for the job and did not think Mayor Catherine E. Pugh was upset by his decision. He said his future plans were unsettled.

Pugh said in a statement that she respected Tuggle’s decision to pull out.

“I continue to value his leadership, depth of experience and professionalism as we work to create a Police Department that earns the trust and confidence of Baltimore citizens each and every day,” the mayor said.

The city entered into a consent decree with the Justice Department last year following a federal investigation that found widespread unconstitutional and discriminatory police practices in the city. That investigation was launched after the 2015 death of Freddie Gray from injuries suffered while in police custody.

At the close of Tuesday’s hearing, Justice Department attorneys thanked Tuggle for his service, noting that they were only made aware of his decision that day.

Tuggle’s decision to withdraw from consideration comes during a year of turnover at the top of the police department. Former Police Commissioner Kevin Davis was fired in January. His replacement, agency veteran Darryl De Sousa, lasted just a few months before he was charged with failing to file federal taxes and resigned in May. Tuggle, a former DEA special agent whom De Sousa recruited to be one of his deputies, ascended to the interim spot.

Baltimore is in the midst of its deadliest 30-day stretch since 2015, with 43 people killed in the past month. And there continues to be internal upheaval: Last week, a top commander resigned in lieu of termination after slamming a chair into a wall during a meeting with Tuggle’s chief of staff, and a rookie officer was terminated after being found drunk on the job while working a daytime overtime shift. Another officer is standing trial this week on charges of first-degree assault for striking a man with his baton.

Col. Perry Standfield, who resigned after the heated meeting, told The Sun that the department needed to be rebuilt. Standfield is a 30-year veteran of the agency who was brought back by De Sousa.

“The internal operations are out of order and there are numerous problems out on the street,” he said. “The BPD needs help.”

Sources say an internal investigation is also underway after Deputy Commissioner Andre Bonaparte and Chief of Patrol Deron Garrity got into a confrontation outside the police union lodge Friday morning.

Tuggle said there has to be “cultural shifts” and “process issues” resolved in the department in the future.

“It’s not going to be something that’s going to happen overnight,” he said.

Tuggle said the department is now on a steady course to reform, but the next commissioner must be extremely dedicated to those efforts.

“Everybody that comes into this police department — if they’re not mission driven to fix it — then they should not be here,” he said.

Councilman Brandon Scott, the chairman of the Public Safety Committee, said he didn’t think Tuggle had enough support from council members to secure the job even had he been nominated by the mayor.

“I don't think the majority of the council members would have voted to confirm him,” Scott said. “He didn’t seem like he had the relationships and the wherewithal to garner the support.”

Scott said Tuggle was well suited to the deputy commissioner job he was hired for, but that his experience in the federal government, where the pace of work is slower, left him unprepared to address the crisis facing the city.

Some have criticized the selection process, saying more details should be made public, including the names of candidates, as other cities have done.

“We want more transparency from the mayor,” said Darlene Cain, who has been attending the quarterly consent decree hearings.

Cain is the founder and president of Mothers On The Move, which advocates for laws that protect against police brutality. She started the group after her son, Dale Graham, 29, was fatally shot by police in 2008 in East Baltimore.

Cain said she and others have submitted input on the commissioner search but have received no response from city officials.

Donna Brown with the No Boundaries Coalition, which has advocated for police reforms, said she was frustrated by Andre Davis’ remarks during the hearing in which he said they have received feedback from groups such as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. While she said groups have sought to provide input, city officials have not actively engaged residents or other stakeholders in the process.

“There’s no information, no transparency” on such an important decision of who will lead the department, Brown said.

Tuggle said he decided to withdraw this week. He spent the weekend in Orlando, Fla., at the International Association of Chiefs of Police meeting.

Tuggle, a Baltimore native and former city police officer, joined the DEA in 1992 and rose through the ranks to leadership positions in Baltimore, Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington.

He served as assistant special agent in charge of the agency’s Baltimore office from 2013 to 2015, overseeing its investigation into the looting of large amounts of pharmaceutical drugs from pharmacies during the 2015 unrest. He subsequently led the DEA’s Philadelphia office.

He is a graduate of Coppin State University and holds a business degree and a master’s degree in government, with a concentration in national security studies, from the Johns Hopkins University.

Tuggle said the department continues to make progress “every single day,” and noted how it has so far met 120 benchmarks outlined in the consent decree.

“The consent decree, yes, is mandated, but there is a will within the department to get this done above and beyond the mandate,” he said.

Pugh said previously that a seven-member commission was aiding in the search, but Andre Davis told The Sun that there was no formal body involved that would be subject to open meetings or public information laws.

Lester Davis, a spokesman for Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young, said that once a name is put forward the council will carefully evaluate the nominee and would be willing to reject a candidate who didn’t measure up.

“It’s a tipping point for Baltimore,” Davis said. “The council’s going to do its best to properly weigh that candidate.”

Baltimore Sun reporters Justin Fenton and Ian Duncan contributed to this article.

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